Menorca Aside From Its Beaches
17 March, 2016
Tufts of cloud fill the sky over Maó. As if acting on a customised script, the weather is adhering to the purpose of this article – to show that Menorca is a lot more than crowded beaches with crystal-clear water, beach bars for nourishing one’s tan and idyllic bike rides with one’s shirt open or wearing a vaporous skirt. When quite the opposite condition sets in, it is every bit as pleasurable – cuisine, culture and scenery. It’s starting to rain in Maó.
The raindrops, the size of five-cent coins, batter against the formidable vessels moored in the port of Maó. The island thrives precisely because of that huge reservoir of water connected to the Mediterranean. It is one of the largest natural harbours in the world – no less than five kilometres long! – surpassed only by Pearl Harbour and New York. It is not the best of days to admire the harbour views so, how about having breakfast until the storm abates? Centrally located, ensconced in one of the Menorcan capital’s legendary cream-coloured streets, lies Es Llonguet, the perfect café for reading away the time and, needless to say, savouring the establishment’s sweets and savouries – the rubiol de carn (meat turnover) or the llonguet de camot (sausage roll) will restore your strength to continue on your way.
A stone’s throw from Es Llonguet, in an area known as the “Fossar dels Anglesos”, lies the Ca n’Oliver art centre. Located in this erstwhile private home dating from the late-18th century, an old house now open to the public, is the Centre d’Art i d’Història Hernàndez Sanz, a reminder of the island’s British legacy. There, you can go up to the rooftop with its views over the city – just as well it’s only drizzling now. Once back in the street, we realise that the rain has stopped; the cobbles gleam as if freshly varnished by the puddles of water. Time to visit the recently remodelled Mercat des Peix Antic, the ideal spot for enjoying an aperitif or having lunch. And, come to think of it, before heading for Ciutadella, drop in at the magnificent patio in the Hotel Jardí de ses Bruixes. Then off to another point on the island.
A 45-minute drive from Maó, Ciutadella, Menorca’s “cultural capital”, is famous for its Fiestas de Sant Joan and its magnificent urban beaches. It is not easy to find accommodation in winter, but Sa Vinyeta is always a good option. After dropping off your bags, take a stroll along the promenade of ses voltes (stone arches on either side of the street) as far as the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Ciutadella, a 13th-century Balearic Gothic construction. From there, go and warm yourself up at the legendary Bar Imperi, on the corner of the Plaça dels Pins. And, before hitting the sack – tomorrow you’re off on an excursion – call in at the Jazzbah, located next to the tiny old fishing harbour, celebrated for its rissaga (tidal range of up to two metres). Open all year around, this wine bar is one of the city’s cultural hubs, boasting a regular concert schedule and karaoke sessions once a month.
Dawn brings a warm day, despite yesterday’s rains. Winter in Menorca holds some surprises, in this instance a good one. Before setting out for Cala Pilar, an area of pebble coves on the north of the island, get some provisions for the bereneta (mid-morning snack). The Pastisseria Moll, one of the oldest pastry shops on the island, is your best bet. Once in Cala Pilar, after rounding part of El Camí de Cavalls, a 100-kilometre GR footpath ringing the entire Menorcan coastline, it’s up to each individual whether or not to take the plunge in the Menorcan sea in mid-March.
After completing this leg of the route and before getting back to the grind, the best thing is to refuel at the Hogar del Pollo, in the centre of Ciutadella. This tavern run by Matías, an Argentinian resident in Menorca, breathes aromas from the world over – with genuine Argentine beef, the best Galician delicacies, scallop and shoulder of pork as the major temptations, and at affordable prices. If after this winter tour of Menorca you are still thirsting for typical local produce, swap the Hogar del Pollo for a visit to Cas Merino, located just behind the old fish market in the Plaça la Llibertat. Be sure to buy some ensaimadas to take home with you – whether in summer or winter, you can’t leave Menorca without one.
Text by Yeray S. Iborra for Los viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Images by Commons Wikipedia
17 March, 2016